Upon first glance, Ted Cruz doesn’t fit the characteristic Republican stereotypes. The black-haired son of Cuban-American immigrants, Cruz diverges sharply from the media image of the Grand Old Party. With overwhelming electoral losses in the election among Hispanics, women, and African-Americans, the Republican Party is seen as a predominantly white, male, Protestant organization hailing back to America’s homogenous Masonic political scene. Legislators like Marco Rubio and Michelle Bachmann are seen as outliers in a party whose policies are pejoratively dubbed as “waging a war on women” and whose presidential candidate was accused of “hating the poor” and “neglecting the 47 percent”. Cruz, the first Hispanic Solicitor General in Texas and a rising star in the GOP, is out to shatter such notions.
Born in Alberta, Canada, Cruz and his family moved to Houston when he was four and he grew up in the Houston public school system. After graduating high school, Cruz attended both Princeton University and Harvard Law School, where he graduated magna cum laude and earned a coveted editor spot at the prestigious Harvard Law Review. Soon after graduation, Cruz clerked for the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist—the first Hispanic to ever clerk for a Chief Justice. Afterwards, he became partner at the major Philadelphia law firm Morgan, Lewis, and Bockius, handling the Supreme Court litigation side of the firm.
Cruz has argued nine times before the Supreme Court, notching his most impressive victory in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller. In Heller, Cruz successfully defended a coalition of 31 states that argued the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to keep and bear arms and is a fundamental liberty upon which the state cannot intrude. In 2003, Cruz was appointed the first Hispanic Solicitor General of Texas in history, holding the post until 2008.
Cruz’s political roots originate with his work as a domestic policy advisor on George W. Bush’s presidential campaign in 2000. Cruz decided to run for Senate in spring 2012 and was quickly endorsed by a variety of Tea Party organizations and notable Tea Party activists Rand Paul, Ron Paul, and Sarah Palin. Cruz handily defeated Texas lieutenant governor David Dewhurst in the primary by a 14-point margin and took the general election over Democrat Paul Sandler by a similar 56.6-40.5 advantage.
His recent speech at an American Principles Project (a conservative activist group) dinner indicated that he did not see the 2012 election results as a rebuke of the Republican message and a mandate for the incumbent—as President Obama has claimed—but a criticism on the way the party delivers its message. Cruz maintained that while the tone on immigration contributed to massive Hispanic losses, “I think far more important [to the loss] was the 47 percent” and castigated Mitt Romney, saying “I can’t think of an idea more antithetical to the American principles this country was founded on”.
Cruz supports popular Tea Party policy prerogatives like school vouchers, traditional marriage laws, and hardline abortion stances. He has carefully distanced himself in the media from previous candidates Mitt Romney and John McCain and criticized his party for “curling up in the fetal position, so utterly terrified of the words ‘George. W. Bush’ that we never bothered to contest” Obama’s economic arguments. Cruz ranted against the notion the GOP is waging a “war on women” and argues that the party’s problem lies in the means of communication, not the message itself.
Cruz has dubbed his ideological brand as ‘Opportunity Conservatism’. He argues for traditional Republican economic and social policies, but wants a rhetoric stressing opportunity in conservative policies. Cruz argues that the Republican economic message has been misconstrued in the media and should be expressed in terms of attempting to put everyone on an equal plane—at which point meritocracy will take over and give those who deserve it a chance to succeed. The remaining policy positions ‘opportunity conservatism’ champions—privatizing Social Security, increasing school choices, pursuing deflationary monetary policy, and increasing gun rights—fall in line with libertarian Tea Party stances and at points, very directly mimic Mitt Romney’s stances from the general election.
In addition to changing rhetoric, Cruz also sees the need for more diverse messengers. He has set his eyes on recovering the Hispanic vote for the Republican Party and is seen as one of those diverse faces of the party equipped to do so. A look at the numbers, however, illustrates that the problem may endure despite Cruz’s efforts. Looking at data in five Hispanic counties, Charles Kuffner examined the voting breakdown between Obama, Romney, Sadler, and Cruz. Although Cruz polled ahead of Romney in all districts by about an average of 2,000 votes, in only two of five counties did he finish within half as many votes as Sadler and in one of the two he was still outvoted by 42,000 votes.
Largely in support of the Affordable Care Act and more government power, according to the Pew Research Center, Latinos identify as Democrats and not Republicans by a three to one margin. According to The Washington Post, in recent polls health care ranked as the fourth most important issue to Latino voters with immigration second. Cruz asserts, “I am something that is not supposed to exist. A Hispanic Republican,” and he along with Rubio has broken new ground in the Senate. With presidential aspirations, Cruz may soon become the face of the Republican Party. However, the numbers bear out that policies—and not surnames—may be the quickest way for Cruz, and the rest of the GOP, to garner a more diverse electoral base in years to come.